Report: Majority of app users will uninstall over privacy concerns

Pew study shows developers need to pay more attention to how they handle personal information.

If Americans have concerns about the personal information they are being asked to share, they will either uninstall a mobile app or not download it in the first place, according to an ongoing research project about online behavior.

Last week the Pew Internet and American Life Project released survey results that underscore the need for developers to pay close attention to any privacy issues that may crop up as a result of what gets collected and stored in their apps. More than half of those surveyed, 54 percent, said they had backed out of adding an app to their smartphone when they realized what kind of personal information they would be required to hand over. This was consistent almost across the survey sample, which the Pew Centre said included more than 2,000 adults aged 18 or older. There was also no variation based on the particular smartphone or app platform a user had chosen, according to the report.

"Outside of some modest demographic differences, app users of all stripes are equally engaged in these aspects of personal information management," the report says. "Owners of both Android and iPhone devices are also equally likely to delete (or avoid entirely) cell phone apps due to concerns over their personal information."

Smartphone owners are almost three times as likely to back up their phone contents.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project report comes at a time when government and public interest groups are calling for more scrutiny on the activities of mobile app developers and the way information shared on apps is used. Last month the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration held its second meeting with the Center for Digital Democracy and others to talk about how the industry could develop a code of conduct around "mobile app transparency." After its initial call for comments the NTIA said,

"Mobile applications are socially and economically important, but mobile devices pose distinct consumer privacy challenges, such as disclosing relevant information on a small display. In addition, commenters noted that practices surrounding the disclosure of consumer data privacy practices do not appear to have kept pace with rapid developments in technology and business models."

The Pew survey numbers back this up. According to the report, even if users download an app, 30 percent of them will uninstall it if they later learn it's not treating their personal information appropriately. Just to be on the safe side, 32 percent of all cell phone owners also clear their browsing or search history and 19 percent have turned off location tracking features out of concerns around privacy.

For more:
- read the full report

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